One of the most contentious issues in any legal matter is that of child custody. Because these matters are often fraught with emotion, it can be difficult to separate facts from feelings. However, that is exactly the purpose of a child custody affidavit.
This legal statement is a sworn document that is typically witnessed by a notary before being filed at the court. The person who writes the affidavit is referred to as the “affiant.” A child custody affidavit is most frequently filed during the early stages of a divorce. Usually, the affidavit helps the court decide where the children will live while the divorce case is pending. The affidavits are an opportunity for both parties to state why they should have custody of the children, at least on a temporary basis.
What Should Be Included in the Affidavit?
An affidavit is a factual document, and it’s important to keep opinions and feelings separate from the facts. Affidavits that are clouded with argumentative or one-sided opinions usually do not help the affiant’s case. In fact, they may very well harm their pursuit of custody. That’s why it’s often necessary to draft several versions of the affidavit before selecting the one that will be filed with the court.
Affiants should avoid phrases like “I think” and “I feel.” Better alternatives are “I witnessed” or “I observed.” Using these phrases leads to a statement of fact rather than opinion. These phrases also demonstrate the credibility of the affiant as they show that he or she has firsthand knowledge of the events. Whenever possible, include dates, times and locations as these details may all lend further credibility to the affidavit.
Formatting the Affidavit
Some states have a form that can be obtained from the court’s website. Alternatively, the affiant may sometimes use a sheet of legal paper that includes the caption of the case. The caption includes the names of the parties to the case and the court-assigned case number. Most affidavits must begin with language like “I, (affiant’s name), do solemnly swear that the following is true to the best of my knowledge.” This is followed by a numbered list of facts with a signature and date line at the end. Some affidavits will require notarization, so it’s important not to sign the affidavit until the signer is in the presence of a notary.